Things just got worse for the Lakers

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Things just got worse for the Lakers

From Comcast SportsNetMEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- A team meeting didn't help stop the losing, and this season just keeps spinning away from the Lakers.Darrell Arthur scored a season-high 20 points and Mike Conley added 19 as the Memphis Grizzlies beat Los Angeles 106-93 Wednesday night, handing the Lakers their fourth straight loss and 10th in 12 games."I do think they play as hard as they can play, and that's what's scary," coach Mike D'Antoni said of his Lakers, who are now 2-10 in January. "I mean I don't know how we can play harder or blame something else. We just didn't play well."Kobe Bryant said he felt comfortable with what he said in a team meeting before the morning shootaround. He said he doesn't know if his message to Dwight Howard got across. When asked if he hoped it did, Bryant simply answered with a seemingly sarcastic "No." And Bryant said this season certainly is getting up there when asked if it was his toughest in the NBA."That Rudy T (Tomjanovich) one was a pretty hard one, too," Bryant said.That was 2004-05, when the Lakers last missed the playoffs when Tomjanovich was coach part of a 34-48 season.These Lakers are 17-25 after losing their seventh consecutive road game. D'Antoni had talked before the game about having an All-Star team with players not having learned their pecking order. Then Howard missed the second half after aggravating his sore shoulder just before halftime. D'Antoni said the center will be re-evaluated in Los Angeles.Memphis got to celebrate a big win, a day after trading three reserves to Cleveland. That meant, even with the signing of D-League player Chris Johnson, Memphis only dressed 10 players before clinching the season series over the Lakers with one game left in Los Angeles on April 5."It was just a great team win," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said.Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen added 12 points apiece as Memphis improved to 12-0 when scoring at least 100 points. Randolph also grabbed 10 rebounds. The Grizzlies scored a season-high 60 points in the paint, compared to 34 for the Lakers with Howard out the second half.Bryant scored 29 points for the Lakers, Metta World Peace added 15, Pau Gasol 13 and Earl Clark 11.Los Angeles came in as the NBA's fifth-best scoring team, averaging 102.6 points. But it was the Grizzlies topping 100 points for the first time since Jan. 11 against the Spurs, and they scored their most points since getting 113 against Sacramento on Jan. 7.Pau Gasol, coming off the bench again, believes defense remains the Lakers' biggest problem."We make these teams look a lot better offensively than they really are," the Lakers forward said. "That's something that's pretty negative. Pretty alarming."The Grizzlies had a short bench after trading three players to the Cavaliers on Tuesday, only getting Jon Leuer back in a move freeing up Memphis from the luxury tax. But the paperwork hadn't cleared on the physicals of the trio going to Cleveland in time to have Leuer available against the Lakers.Then Marc Gasol, Randolph, Hamed Haddadi and Jerryd Bayless all picked up two fouls each in the first quarter. That forced Hollins to rotate his Grizzlies to keep them fresh, and rookie Tony Wroten, who has gotten most of his playing time in the D-League in Reno this season, had a career-best nine points by halftime."When we are faced with adversity, we show that we can win," Allen said. "When adversity comes, when guys get hurt, we pull together."The Lakers started quickly, scoring the first six points of the game and forced four turnovers. They looked like they had listened to D'Antoni's plea for better defense.But they last led 30-28 on a 15-footer by Pau Gasol with 9 minutes left in the second quarter. Conley answered with a 9-foot runner to tie it up, and that started a 22-5 run as the Grizzlies took the lead for good. Conley capped the spurt with a fast-break layup with 4:25 left in the first half for a 50-35 lead.Both teams shot better than 50 percent in the first half, but the Grizzlies led 59-50 at halftime. They led by as much as 21 in the second half and finished with a 27-3 edge on second-chance points. They outrebounded the Lakers 52-34, including 16 offensive rebounds."It's just the same thing over again," Lakers forward Earl Clark said. "We broke down defensively. They went on a run, and we continue to just go downhill."Meanwhile, Howard was 0 of 4 from the floor and headed to the locker room with 2:21 left in the first half, flexing his right shoulder. He had been probable with a torn labrum and had a very physical first half against Gasol and Haddadi.The Lakers got within 61-58 on a 14-footer by Bryant with 8:57 left in the third. That was as close as they would get as their woes worsened when Steve Nash, who came in a perfect 26 of 26 at the free throw line this season, missed his second attempt of the night with 3:07 left in the third.Notes: Gay tied Pau Gasol as the Grizzlies' franchise leader in games played with 476 ... D'Antoni, told at least he didn't have to worry about coaching the All-Star game this season, joked, "just barely missed it by 30 games." ... Memphis had gone six straight games since last topping 100 points, and the Grizzlies needed overtime to do that against the Spurs. ... Memphis had a 43-29 scoring edge from the bench. ... Nash finished with eight assists but six turnovers.

Trying to make sense of Aroldis Chapman’s lost-in-translation rollout with Cubs

Trying to make sense of Aroldis Chapman’s lost-in-translation rollout with Cubs

Aroldis Chapman lost the press conference, which won’t matter if the Cubs win the World Series. That’s the calculated decision chairman Tom Ricketts, team president Theo Epstein and their inner circle made in trading for the 105-mph closer from the New York Yankees.

But Chapman’s lost-in-translation introduction to the Chicago media (and, by extension, the fans) should force the Cubs – and anyone covering the team – to reassess that system-wide failure.

That’s not diminishing the seriousness of the allegations Chapman faced after a domestic dispute in South Florida last October, leading to a 30-game suspension to start this season. Or completely falling for the sleepy/nervous defense presented after Chapman – under repeated questioning – said he had no recollection of the off-the-field expectations Ricketts outlined during that phone call the Cubs absolutely needed before closing the deal with the Yankees.

Major League Baseball required all teams to hire a Spanish-language translator this season, and the Cubs deployed quality-assurance coach Henry Blanco, a widely respected former big-league catcher who doesn’t have any real experience handling such a sensitive media session. This wasn’t asking Jorge Soler about a hamstring injury or a game-winning home run. Chapman’s agent, Barry Praver, watched the entire scene unfold in the visiting dugout on Tuesday afternoon before a crosstown game against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

ESPN’s Pedro Gomez – who asked the only question in Spanish during the group scrum – then got a one-on-one interview with Chapman that yielded more insight into the player and the conversation with ownership. 

“I really don’t know what happened there,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “Whether it was miscommunication (or he was) misunderstood, I don’t know.

“That’s already over. We got to move in a different direction. Whatever happened yesterday, we just want to be on the positive side and move forward.”

Ricketts – who released a statement when the trade became official on Monday afternoon and appeared on the team’s flagship radio station (WSCR-AM 670) on Tuesday morning – declined to comment when approached by reporters before another crosstown game on Wednesday at Wrigley Field: “I think we’ve said enough this week.”

At a time when newspapers are diminished and old/new media is fracturing, there simply aren’t enough Spanish speakers within the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Chapman – an All-Star performer who is 28 years old and has been in the big leagues since 2010 – doesn’t really speak any English and grew up within a society that most of us will never understand.

Even for native speakers and proficient translators, there are linguistics variations in Spanish and wide cultural gaps among those born in Cuba (Chapman and Soler), Venezuela (Blanco and Montero) and the Dominican Republic. There are also fundamental personality differences, with Chapman being described as an observer, quiet and withdrawn during his time with the Cincinnati Reds.

While the talkative Montero, 33, didn’t know any English when he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks as a teenager, he picked up enough of the language to become a translator for teammates by the end of his rookie-ball season in Missoula, Montana.

“I just kept on practicing, asking questions,” Montero said. “I remember people laughing about my accent or whatever. And I never really cared. That’s what a lot of Latin guys get intimidated by, because they don’t want people to make fun of them. That’s why they get intimidated. That’s why they don’t learn.

“That wasn’t my problem. I didn’t care if you laughed. I didn’t care about any of that, because this is not my language, you know? It’s something that I (was) learning and I became fairly good. Good enough.”

That’s why Montero can understand MLB’s directive to hire translators and still see the limitations.

“It’s OK,” Montero said. “But on the other hand, I feel like it’s important for us to learn the language. Not only as a player, but when your career’s over, you’re bilingual. You can actually use it for different areas (of your life) later on.

“That was my biggest goal. If I didn’t make it to the big leagues, at least I’m going to be bilingual, and I can do something because it’s productive for any other job.”

Chapman has one job between here and October – to win the franchise’s first World Series in more than a century – and that success or failure is how he will ultimately be remembered in Chicago.

Cut-fastball key to Miguel Gonzalez's improvement with White Sox

Cut-fastball key to Miguel Gonzalez's improvement with White Sox

Miguel Gonzalez has thrown his cut-fastball more in July than ever before.

The White Sox pitcher thinks the way its complements his repertoire has been critical to his most consistent month in the majors since 2014.

Not only is he 1-2 with a 2.76 ERA in five starts in July, but Gonzalez has increased his strikeout rate by three percent with 26 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings.

The improvement has helped Gonzalez, who next starts Saturday at Minneapolis, develop into either a good back-end rotation option for the White Sox and perhaps even a trade chip. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that the Miami Marlins scouted Gonzalez on Monday when he outpitched Jake Arrieta.

“It has been helping me this year,” Gonzalez said. “Hitters see a fastball out of the hand and at the end it’s already on them. That’s been a big change for me and it’s helping a lot. I’ve been seeing better results.”

His catchers have seen a dramatic increase in the number of cutters Gonzalez has thrown. In four seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, Gonzalez threw 19 cutters. The pitch is a staple for White Sox hurlers under Don Cooper and Gonzalez took his regular slider and started to throw it harder once he signed a minor-league deal with them in April.

So far this month, Gonzalez has thrown the cutter 119 times, which accounts for 24.59 percent of his pitches, according to brooksbaseball.net. Batters have hit .188 and are slugging just .313.

“It made sense to where if I throw a fastball inside, located, and then I throw that cutter, it’s going to make it a lot harder for a lefty, or a righty, to react on,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve seen swings where they get jammed or break a bat or they swing and miss because they think it’s a fastball and it’s three or four miles an hour slower.”

Always more of a contact pitcher, the addition has -- in the short term -- increased Gonzalez’s strikeout rate to near league average. Before July, Gonzalez struck out 17.1 percent of the batters he had faced in his career. This month, the rate is 20.2 percent.   

Cooper is pleased with the development of Gonzalez. He’s also not surprised to find that Gonzalez’s name has appeared in recent Hot Stove chatter along with James Shields, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, among others.

“Every year this comes up,” Cooper said. “It’s not the first time. People come and go. Trades do happen. Heck, when (Mark) Buehrle left that was a tough one because that was 10 years there. So if Buehrle can leave,anybody can leave. I’ve always said the names change, but the job doesn’t.”

Gonzalez is happy with his current location. He didn’t know what to expect with the White Sox when he signed in April. Suffice it to say, the experience has been better than he could have hoped.

“When you have a free mind, stress free, and you’re on a new team, new environment, things tend to change a little bit and in a good way,” Gonzalez said. “That’s how I feel. I feel comfortable with the team. They welcomed me and now it’s paying off. Hopefully we can get into a nice little stretch and win, a little streak going. That’s what we need right now.”

Bears make front office changes

Bears make front office changes

The Bears announced in a press release on Wednesday that the team has made numerous changes in their front office this offseason.

One such move included the hiring of Brandon Faber as the VP of Communications. Faber was with the Blackhawks communications department since 2008, where his most recent position was Senior Director of Communications and Community relations. 

"The club created a new executive layer of SVP’s to better lead and develop various areas of business with a focus on innovation & strategy," the release detailed. "The club promoted Scott Hagel, Karen Murphy, Cliff Stein and Lee Twarling to the newly created SVP level. The Bears have also added three new members to the VP level, promoting Doug Carnahan to VP of Corporate Partnerships and Jake Jones to VP of Finance and hiring Brandon Faber as the VP of Communications."

Hagel has been promoted to SVP, Marketing and Communications after 20 years with the Bears. Murphy has been promoted to SVP, Business Strategy and CFO. She has been with the Bears for 17 years.

Stein has been with the Bears for 14 years and has been promoted to SVP and General Counsel. He is the legal advisor for all of the club.

Twarling, who has been with the club for 12 years, has been promoted to SVP, Sales and Customer Relations.